Let me introduce you to Spectrum Inspired. It's a non-profit organization run by several creative and passionate women whose goal it is to raise awareness for autism through documentary photography. Since April is Autism awareness month across the country I felt like it would be a good time to share a small collaboration I did with them back in the Fall. I wanted to showcase some of their images so they lent me a few of their own personal photographs to frame here in the shop.
My 6 year old son has Autism. While it doesn't define who he is, as a family we live with the daily realities of it in our lives. Sometimes everything feels normal (or at least as normal as it can feel with 4 kids :), and sometimes it feels isolating and difficult. For the past few years, I've felt that there was a strong connection with my photography interest and autism. One small element is that my wife and I don't get to make a lot of eye contract with our son. It's one of those things that's easy to take for granted. But with a photograph my song might actually look into a camera lens long enough to get that eye contact that we can cherish as a print. It gives us a chance to see into what he might be thinking or feeling for more than just a split second or two during the day.
That's why I really love what their doing at Spectrum Inspired. Connecting families living in these daily realities with photographers who can help document their journeys. Raising a child with autism can also be very financially burdensome with the amount of therapies, specialists, and in some cases education costs that come with wanting to give your child everything they need. In many cases, parents simply can't afford to pay a photographer to make family portraits so Spectrum Inspired provides grant opportunities to families to make it possible to have their photographs made.
Here is a recent project I really enjoyed working on. The photograph was taken by Charles Clarke of Collegeville, PA. Charley sent along this description of the photograph:
"The photo was taken in Southern California, about 20 minutes from the beach in the mountains of Santa Barbara, a very rare place to find snow. Not far from the area that was still completely scorched by a huge wild fire a couple years before. I always share that with people that see the photo because it was such unusual weather for that area."
I've been inspired lately by watching some old YouTube videos of master furniture maker, George Nakashima. Twenty-seven years after his death, his philosophy on woodworking and the detailed craftsmanship he employed remains an inspiration not only applicable to woodworkers, but to all artists. I promise its worth a watch.
Last week I added the ability to write customer reviews to the website. Here's the reason why it took me so long to do it.
For the past two years I've considered of adding reviews to this website. Always knowing in my head that it was a good business decision but not having the confidence at the end of the day to actually do it.
For me, it was more personal than just a good business decision though. Similar to putting a new photograph or piece of art out into the world - I saw adding review as opening myself to potential criticism that I didn't want to receive. I'm a one-man-shop and a review about a product is basically a review about me, or at least that's how I used to feel.
I think feeling this comes when we make something we really care about, because if I didn't care, I wouldn't be concerned about getting a negative review from time to time. But the funny thing is, almost all my clients over the past few years have really enjoyed what I make and send them. Many even go out of their way to send me kind notes and photos of their frames in their homes.
Furthermore, I was reviewing some sales data recently and in the past two years I haven't had to issue a single refund due to someone not being happy with their purchase. I have definitely made some mistakes and have had to remake some products, but at the end of the day, most all of what I have made has been well received.
Now this all sounds like I'm blowing my own horn. And that's not my intent. More to the point though is that its risky to put yourself out there with any kind of art. Whether you're wood working, taking photographs, or making music. We all feel that self-doubt, that little voice in your head that says you're not good enough. I have it, and I'm guessing you have to, But if its something worth doing then you have to open yourself to that risk.
So I did it, I added the code to the website that allows for reviews - positive or negative - and I'm completely fine with it :) I just wish it hadn't taken me so long to do it.
It's been a little silent on the Journal to begin the year, not for lack of scurrying behind the scenes.
(For more daily, behind the scenes looks into what I'm working on, check out our Instagram Stories - I post fairly regularly there.)
One of the first projects that I've been anxious to get complete is to revise the pricing on all the wood blocks that we make here. I'm really excited to announce the following new pricing.
The primary impetus in being able to lower pricing on these is the amount of wood volume I'm purchasing. Since I began offering the wood blocks online, I've been making them in small batches which were much more pricey. Since they've received a great response over the past year, I'm purchasing more wood up front - at a much cheaper cost, and moving all the production in-house which helps to reduce the costs. The quality of the product won't change at all and I still make the same margins as before all while reducing the cost to clients - so it's a win-win for all parties.
Drone's are all the rage these days. Heck, I even ordered one a few weeks ago. As I thought through ordering I was texting with my friend, photographer, Thomas Delgado who has been using drones professionally for years now. He had such a great wealth of knowledge on the subject I asked him to write a guest post for the blog. As he was also in the midst of making his own decision about purchasing a new drone for his business the timing worked out great. Take it away Thomas!
It’s an exciting time in the drone market ; just last week DJI announced their latest updates to their line-up, updating their aging Inspire line, adding a pro model to their Phantom series, all hot on the heels of their initial entry into the ultra portable drone market with the Mavic Pro announcement just two months ago.
Despite the bobble they’ve made with the Mavic Pro release, shipping only a handful of units of their massive pre-orders and even issuing an apology for dropping the ball on delivery, I would say without hesitation that if you’re in the market for a drone, whether updating your craft or entering the world of UAS for the first time, now is the time to get your order in.
For this article, I’ll be focusing on the key factors in helping determine which drone is the best fit for you, drawing from the current DJI offerings. I’ll admit, I have very little experience with other brands, only a short stint with 3DR’s Solo before returning it and springing for the Phantom 3 Pro from DJI. Their’s is a proven platform that is only getting better with each update, adding groundbreaking features while further refining their already polished system.
My main considerations when researching new drones are, in no particular order:
Flight time Camera • Sensor Size • Resolution • Bitrate Codec / Raw Capture • Ability to accept filters • Adjustable Aperture Safety Features • Sensors • Intelligent Flight Features • Maximum Transmission Distance • Portability • Upgradeability • Versatility • Price
There are four lines offered from DJI that we are going to focus on; the Mavic Pro, Phantom, Inspire, and Matrice.
The Mavic is DJI’s newest line of drones targeted towards travelers and first time flyers; it packs the latest technologies into an ultraportable size (just over 1.5lbs, about the size of a water bottle) at a wallet friendly $999. Flight time clocks in at a healthy 27 minutes (21 minutes of normal flight returning with 15% battery ), plenty of power to push it towards the limits of its impressive 4+ mile range, reaching speeds of 40mph along the way. A host of sensors will help you avoid obstacles, while gesture recognition will make taking selfies a snap. If you want to save a few ounces and skip the remote controller, you can power this drone with just your cell phone, albeit with shorter range and reduced max speed. The fixed-focal-length-camera features tap-to-focus technology to capture 12mp images and power its impressive maximum 4k (4096×2160 24p) recording at 60mbps with the .h264 codec from its 1/2.3” sensor.
While just months ago, deciding which drone to purchase would have been an easy recommendation for amateur and semiprofessionals alike, the latest Phantom 4 Pro improvements make it much more difficult (on me a least. The Phantom 4 Pro features a larger sensor, new codec, and a higher bitrate which will be sure to tempt professionals looking for an edge in image quality. The Phantom line is basically the big brother to the Mavic Pro.
So I’ll try to make this simple: If you’re a hobbyist looking at the Phantom 4, I’d instead go with the Mavic Pro. It will be travel friendly with similar image quality.
If you’re seriously looking at the Phantom 4 Pro, here are the main differences: The Phantom 4 Pro ($1499, $1799 w/ built in 1080p, 5.5” screen) is a significant upgrade from the Mavic Pro and non-pro Phantom 4 model. Some of its features include 30 minute flight time, increased sensors for improved obstacle avoidance, superior image and video quality (packing in a 1” sensor for 20mp images, video at 4096×2160 24/25/30p @100Mbps using the .h265 codec), dual transmission frequencies, a mechanical shutter for improved video panning, and a top speed of 45mph. The optional built-in screen is designed with outdoor operation in mind, featuring 1000 cd/m2 of brightness.
I went ahead and ordered my new drone and decided on a Phantom 4 Pro. For me, it’s a perfect balance between image quality and price. If you’re looking to go up a notch and have the budget to do so, the Inspire 2 (Starting at $2999) is a significant step up in image quality AND price, depending on how you configure it. It also allows for true dual operators, with a FPV camera for the pilot in addition to the main camera. If your goal is the absolute best quality, you’re going to want to capture RAW with the X5S camera with interchangeable lenses. This will give you the most flexibility in post production, dwarfing the 100Mbps bitrate of the Phantom 4 Pro, recording 5.2K resolution at 30p, writing up to a staggering 4.2Gbps of RAW capture. You also have the option of licensing either from Apple or other companies for more file formats. You’re going to need to pony up for the proprietary media though; files this large won’t record to your every-day SD card. The Inspire 2 update brings a slew of sensors for obstacle avoidance, dual batteries for redundancy, a max speed of 67mph, range of distance, more agility, and the brains to offer several new flight modes. You can use smart tracking to capture complex shots while you fly solo, or take advantage of dual operators for even more advanced maneuvers.
The Matrice 600 is a commercial level drone, with a much larger payload, 6 props, 6 batteries, and the ability to take up DJI cameras or a host of 3rd party cameras thanks to it’s Ronin gimbal (sold separately). If you’re a professional film maker and have invested in your own camera systems, this would likely be the best option for you.
Boiled Down Recommendations:
If you are new to drone's, just having fun, and/or traveling a lot, the Mavic Pro is the way to go.
If you are a more serious drone user or using the drone for professional purposes (on a budget) go with the Phantom 4.
If you are very serious hobbyist and or professional with a larger budget go with the Inspire 2.
If you are Steven Spielberg (or are aspiring to be him) spring for the Matrice 600 :)
One of my favorite things to receive from family on Christmas are photo books - the big coffee table kind. I believe strongly in both printing ones own work also studying the printed work of others in order to improve your photographic eye. I also love spending cold winter evenings by the fire thumbing through these books and I look forward to receiving a new stack each year :)
Most of these photographers, like Joel Sternfeld and Rodney Smith, for instance, are artists with whom I haven't had much exposure to yet. Some of the books included are that of iconic photographers whose work is deemed a "must have" for your bookshelf (Edward Weston and Magnum Contact Sheets for example). While several of the books are continuations into learning more about artists whose work I already admire greatly - this year that is Michael Kenna and Edward Burtynsky.
However the book I'm most excited about I happened to stumble upon accidentally. It is by Dutch photographer Hans van der Meer titled "European Fields: The Landscape of Lower League Football" in which depicts landscape scenes of soccer fields (with games going on) from around Europe. You'd think this wouldn't be that compelling of a book, but from the samples I've seen, both the action in the scenes and the landscape around the fields create very compelling images.
So without further ado...here is what's on my wish list this year (with links to Amazon):
(Note: Amazon's prices seem to change around some so the prices listed could vary...and I don't make any money on referring these books :)
Lucas Huey is a man of many talents. Carpentry and photography to name a couple (which is probably why we had an instant connection :) I caught up with Lucas as he was traveling the southwest earlier this month to ask him a few questions about his photography career, living in beautiful Monterey, CA, and starting The Headshot Factory.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from/live, how'd you get into photography?
I’m Lucas Huey. I grew up in the farm fields of Central California. I am married to the raddest most beautiful woman in the world. She knows how important it is for me to be creative and lets me be me. We have two dogs, a 15 year old daughter and spend as much time outdoors as humanly possible. I like to drink brown liquids and eat greasy burgers. I try not to take things to serious except for when it needs to be. I went to art school in Washington, where I got a BFA in Graphic Design with a minor in Photography. Right now, I live on the beach. Our studio is in Monterey, California, 45 min to the heart of Big Sur & 2 hours from Downtown SF. As a little kid, I would go visit my grandparents in San Diego. My grandfather would let me play with his 1964 Pentax Spotmatic camera. Later, he gifted me that very camera. Thats’ really who gave me the push & addiction, my Grandfather. Once I got pretty good with that camera he then gave me a medium formant TLR, which I still use to this day. After I graduated from college, he gave me a darkroom, which is awesome! While going to school, I worked for a fashion photographer, sweeping the studio, changing the developer tanks and just helping out with studio busy work. He taught me a lot on being a studio photographer, told me “Always have a code and stay humble.” The big thing that he instilled in me is that photography doesn’t happen overnight. I was shooting film up until 2013 which is when I started shooting more studio work and took a 2 year break from landscape.
Q: What does a typical working day look like for you?
A typical day for me is different from most. Part of the time I'm working from home, then I’ll move to location, then to the studio. Usually I’m up early. Mondays, Saturdays & Sundays I’m up before 6 working on business marketing, creating graphics, writing my blog posts for the week/ month. Rest of the week & Saturday afternoons are my shooting days, either photographing commercial fashion, food, products and/or local landscapes. I do a lot of stylized shoots. We have scheduled 3 stylized bridal shoots for the next couple months for publication. If I don’t have shoots scheduled, I’m editing.
Q: You've worked as a carpenter at a framing studio so you've spent plenty of time around artwork. How do you think about presenting your photographs? How do you select your final images you are going to offer to clients or for your own home?
Yes, working in a framing studio really helped with knowing how to present my artwork. I tend to choose timeless frames, staying away from the more modern look. For my paper prints, I use 8 ply rag over mat with a 1/4” reveal around the images that is mounted on a 4 ply rag with a matching mat & museum grade non glare glass. It’s worth the investment. I encourage all my clients to go this route. Each of my pieces are finished with a sticker and signed on the dust cover. I do pull an Edward Weston and sign my mounted images low so the over mat covers it. It’s not about my signature being seen. It’s about the artwork! I also offer Plexi-Mount, where the image is face mounted directly to the museum acrylic. These enable me to print big and don’t have the over matting. I love my panoramics! There is something about seeing a huge print like Yosemite, Big Sur or the back country. Choosing final images for my clients or even my own home requires my wife’s assistance. She rates and flags the images through her eyes. Then I do another rate and flag looking at close details, then she will rate and flag what I have chosen. There is a lot of culling so that we get quality images that have all the great elements of design, movement, contrast and shadow detail.
Q: I've visited the Monterey Peninsula before and it seems like it's an amazing place to live as a nature photographer. Where are your go-to spots if you're looking to shoot landscapes.
It is a pretty rad place to live. Most go to spots are south, Big Sur Area, but you don’t have to go far. Journey to one of the many beaches, sit on a rock and you just may witness a bunch of hump back whales breaching or dolphins playing. At night, we get some pretty rad views of the Milky Way. Stack that with a long exposure and you can get some pretty wild images.
Q: In addition to landscapes you photograph a lot of people. The idea for the headshot factory that you've started is brilliant. Tell us about getting that off the ground.
The Headshot Factory stemmed from networking on LinkedIn. I was shocked with the professionals that had terrible profile pictures. I don’t think on a “professional” platform, you should have a blurry cell phone photo. So, with that thought, The Headshot Factory was born. We go into banks, real estate offices, Dr. offices, set up the backdrop & take a few shots. It’s one price. It’s quick.
Q: I read on your website that you have a goal of photographing a sunrise in Yosemite and a sunset on the coast in the same day. Have you reached your goal yet!???
This goal came from my wife. She wanted to see the sunrise in Yosemite, hitting all the weirdness of California, and drive to watch the sunset eating fish and chips in Half Moon Bay. Now, you may think this would be easy especially since Half Moon Bay is around 5 hours from Yosemite. Here is how Northern California works: When it’s warm and sunny in the mountains, it is cold and foggy on the beach. When its nice and warm with epic sunsets on the beach, we still have snow in the high country. We have a 3 day window in Oct where the roads are open to get the sunrise and be able to get a pretty amazing sunset. Long story short not quite yet. The planning is key on this one. We have had the goal for around 2 years, watching the patterns so we get it just right.